The man who murdered police officers in Dallas, Texas, this week had earlier been employed in a massive operation, now in its 15th year, that has killed many thousands of people in Afghanistan. He was trained to kill by the U.S. military using U.S. tax dollars. He was conditioned to believe violence an appropriate response to violence by the examples everywhere to be found in U.S. public policy, history, entertainment, and language.
Murdering police officers because some other police officers committed murder is unfair, unjust, immoral, and certainly counterproductive on its own terms. The Dallas killer managed to get himself killed by means of a bomb delivered by a robot. The police could have waited him out but chose not to, and no one indoctrinated to accept violent revenge will blame them. But that technology will spread among police and non-police killers. The airwaves are reverberating with cries for a race war. Greater militarization of the police, not greater restraint, will follow this incident. More lives will be lost. More screams of agony will be heard over loved ones lost.
Murdering people in Afghanistan because some other people who had been to Afghanistan were suspected of committing murder was and is unfair, unjust, immoral, and certainly counterproductive on its own terms – and according to the White House this week it will continue for years to come. Not only did most people in Afghanistan not support the murders of September 11, 2001, but most people in Afghanistan had never heard of that crime. The global war on and of terrorism has been increasing terrorism for nearly 15 years. “When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good,” said retired U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict.”
The cry of “Black lives matter!” is not a proposal that white lives or police lives or soldiers’ lives or any lives do not matter. It is a lament over the disproportionate targeting of blacks by police shootings. The trick is to understand the shootings as the enemy, the militarizing and weaponizing policies as the enemy, and not some group of people.
The murders on 9/11 were not rightly understood. The enemy was murder, not Saudis or foreigners or Muslims. Now hundreds of times those murders have been added in response, making murder the big victor and peace the big loser. With no end in sight.
We must not go on trying to solve a problem with the same tools that created it. We must, in fact, proclaim that “All lives matter.” But if that is meant to include only the 4% of human lives contained within the United States, it will fail. We must stop training people to imagine that violence works, and hoping they will only use their violent skills abroad among the 96% of people who don’t matter.
Where is our outrage and our grief when the White House admits to killing innocents with drones? Where is our indignation over the people killed by the U.S. military in foreign lands? Where is our concern over U.S. weapons sales flooding the Middle East and other regions of the globe with instruments of death? When attacking ISIS just fuels ISIS, why is the only option ever considered more of the same?
What brings in campaign funding, what earns votes, what wins media coverage, what generates movie ticket sales, and what sustains the weapons industry may just be at odds with what protects all human lives including those we’re traditionally encouraged to think matter. But we can redirect our votes, our media consumption, and even our choice of industries to invest in.
Dallas lives are, whether we know it or not, going to go on not mattering, until Afghan and all other lives matter too.